Paper? Or Plastic?


I cannot tell you how disturbing the attitude of the sidebar “Paper? Or Plastic?” accompanying September 2012’s article, “Seven IFR Prep Tips,” was to me. I have been flying for over 40 years, most of them professionally. Having earned my instrument rating in 1976, a paper chart was the only choice and it has served me well all of these years. It does not need toxic batteries and it always works.


Yes, the new gadgets are shiny and slick and do all sorts of wonderful things. However, aviation is an expensive activity, and those electronic devices are not cheap. Subscription costs have a habit of accumulating and escalating. I have recently changed to the atlas style of paper low-level en route charts. That means no charts spread across the cockpit.

You are correct in saying that IFR flying takes planning. This is true of any cross-country flying. Weather is the biggest variable in flight planning and takes up most of the planning stage and all of the actual flying. No, I do not have in-cockpit weather other than what I can see out the window. Under those conditions, all weather avoidance is strategic, with no tactical avoidance available.

Call me a Luddite all you want. It will not endear you to me. I have been safe under the paper system for 40 years. I will be forced to get ADS-B by 2020. That will also require a capable GPS. But, I will still use paper wherever I can because it is 100 percent reliable.

David Heberling
Via e-mail

We obviously didn’t make clear that sidebar’s theme, which was the “huge array of free or low-cost services and applications…available to anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone, and an Internet connection” in performing IFR pre-flight planning. We weren’t advocating paperless cockpits in that sidebar, which is another topic entirely.

Meanwhile, we’ve found electronic charting options generally are less expensive and more capable than traditional paper. Again, we ask, which of the two flight-planning methods “is more accurate, more comprehensive, quicker and easier to use?”

Emergency Gear Extension
Good article on landing gear care and feeding (“Understanding Your Undercarriage,” September 2012). I enjoyed the whole issue as usual but wanted to mention something I think more retractable pilots should try. Every year, I try to help my IA do the annual as much as I can. One item in which we both agree I need to participate is the testing of the gear.


In addition to testing retracting and extending, we also conduct a set of manual extension tests. This does two things. It validates the components used to perform an emergency extension are working correctly. And it provides me a chance to practice pumping the gear down by hand. I’ve never had a hydraulic failure in flight, but manually extending the gear while the airplane is up on jacks allows me to experience what I would have to do if it ever happens.
Again, love the magazine. Always looking forward to the next edition.

Don Hinds
Via e-mail

Thanks, Don. We share your enthusiasm for what we call the “owner-assisted annual inspection,” and the landing-gear checks are a major part of our efforts. It’s a two-person job, after all. Finding a shop allowing owner participation can be problematic, however.

In any event, we also strongly recommend periodically exercising a retract’s emergency gear-extension system while airborne. For one thing, the air loads imposed can dramatically change the effort required. For another, we’re reminded of the challenge flying the plane and cranking or pumping down the gear imposes.

Knowing what to expect can help make things much simpler when the gear soils the bed some dark and stormy night.

Article Ideas
I congratulate you on an excellent publication, one I continue to read cover to cover each month. I believe it makes me a safer pilot and gives me a deeper understanding of many topics.

In a previous letter I asked that you consider an article helping many of us understand what exactly we should be looking for as we display (and record) copious data from our graphic engine monitors. Amy Laboda’s article, “The Sparks That Let You Fly,” in the June issue was an excellent step in that direction. In the same issue also I enjoyed the article on managing overwater risks, “One If By Land, Two If By Water?” and thought that the follow-up letter recommending the “Spare Air” product made a lot of sense.


One worry I always have had when over water is how I would ever get the life raft out of my plane, a Cessna 182, while also egressing myself. Not to mention worrying about any passengers. I have never seen this concern addressed.

In an entirely different vein, I have often wondered if some publication might address in very general terms a broad overview of the FAA regulations. Just a 30,000-foot view of how they are organized, where to look for specific questions, etc. I have a similar feeling about various publications from airframe/engine manufacturers, such as mandatory service bulletins, owner advisories, etc. I think we all understand airworthiness directives, but there are several other advisory and guidance materials from the FAA not as well understood. I think what I am suggesting is a framework within which to feel comfortable that all such communications are given the proper attention.

Keep up the great work on the magazine.

Frank Middleton
Via e-mail

Thanks, Frank. We’re working on an article about interpreting engine monitors—look for it in a couple of months.

Your idea of discussing how the FARs are organized and where various rules can be found, along with FAA and manufacturer materials, is another good one. We’ll put it on the list for a future issue, also.

Meanwhile, take a moment and go back to June’s article on overwater risks and check out the sidebar on page 9, “Survival Training.” The author—who also happens to be an experienced diver—discusses his training experience in detail, concluding his chances of a successful egress after a violent impact would be “less than zip.”


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